Reducing car pollution easier than UN experts thought

An industrial scene in this file photo from 01/10/90 Without new policies, transport emissions may grow faster than others, says the UN report

Related Stories

Reducing pollution from cars has been cheaper and easier than UN experts thought, a draft report says.

The UN's climate panel has admitted it underestimated the huge gains in weight and fuel efficiency achieved by car manufacturers.

But the panel says all the improvements will be swamped by the future growth in global traffic.

That is unless governments improve public transport, tax motorists and plan cities for walking and cycling.

The report, seen by BBC News, warns that transport will become the biggest source of CO2 emissions unless politicians act firmly.

It points out that the majority of homes in urban centres are yet to be built, but raises doubts about the capacity of governments in developing countries to plan cities that will avoid car dependency and pollution.

Transport demand

The authors say in a background document: "Without aggressive and sustained policies (to cut CO2 from cars and trucks), transport emissions could increase at a faster rate than emissions from any other sector and reach around 12 [billion tonnes of carbon dioxide or equivalent greenhouse gases per year] by 2050.

"Transport demand per capita in developing and emerging economies is far lower than in [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] countries, but will increase at a much faster rate in the next decades, due to rising incomes and development of infrastructure."

Transport currently produces 23% of global energy-related CO2 emissions. Its growth has historically been linked to the amount of wealth in the economy, but the report says this link will have to be severed if the world is to avoid dangerous climate change (the catchphrase is "decoupling").

Signs of optimism

The report displays signs of optimism, noting that the growth in the use of light vans has slowed strongly in rich nations. It says: "If pricing and other stringent policy options are implemented in all regions, substantial decoupling of transport GHG emissions from GDP growth seems possible."

Climate change glossary
Select a term to learn more:
Adaptation
Action that helps cope with the effects of climate change - for example construction of barriers to protect against rising sea levels, or conversion to crops capable of surviving high temperatures and drought.

The report lists a host of measures to be used to combat increased emissions. Some will be controversial, others will be invisible.

They include: behavioural change leading to avoided journeys, internet shopping, a shift to public transport, better technology, low-carbon fuels, investments in related infrastructure and changes in cities to promote walking and cycling.

The UK's leading expert on transport and the environment, Prof Julia King from Aston University, told BBC News: "The automotive industry has brought energy efficiency technologies into vehicles faster than most people predicted and at lower cost.

"The result in the UK of technology acceleration, combined with fuel price increases and the impact of the recession, is that new car emissions fell to 130g/km - two years ahead of the EU deadline of 2015. The drop shows that regulation can work - the EU new car CO2 regulatory target and the US efficiency target seem to be driving the acceleration."

Prof King said the rates of CO2 reduction were highest in the most expensive cars. "Luxury saloon average new car emissions fell from 285g/km to below 200g/km - an amazing 30% reduction. Of course, it is easier at the luxury end - in big vehicles, there is more to go at," she said.

Luxury cars

"In large cars, a 1% reduction in mass gives about a 0.7% reduction in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. Some studies suggest that this can deliver up to 33% reduction in emissions in large cars."

Drivers have also benefited from better tyres, lubricating oils, driver information including gear change indicators, aerodynamics and low-energy electronics.

The new Porsche 919 Hybrid is seen during the press day of the 84th International Motor Show on 04/03/2014 New rules and leaps in technology have made more efficient hybrids like this Porsche 919 possible

Added to this long list is the gradual emergence of hybrid and electric vehicles.

Prof King added a caveat: some of the emissions improvements may not be apparent to the average driver.

It seems that manufacturers are capitalising on new technology to pass the emissions test, rather than to benefit the ordinary motorist - so new cars are definitely better, but not quite as good as they appear.

Longevity problem

Also, perversely, as cars last longer, ultra-efficient vehicles will take longer to penetrate the fleet.

The UN's report confirms that regulation - often strongly resisted by the motor industry - can be very effective in getting emissions down and efficiency up.

It talks about the need to ensure clean fuels. The EU's policy on blocking high-CO2 fuel from tar sands from Europe is being fiercely resisted by Canada.

The report says there is room for governments to shift more freight on to rail and water, but it warns that aircraft will remain a problem. Although big efficiency improvements are scheduled, aircraft are very long-lived.

Despite all the optimism over technical advances, it says: "Reducing transport emissions will be a daunting task, given the inevitable increases in demand."

Follow Roger on Twitter @rharrabin

More on This Story

Related Stories

More Business stories

RSS

BBC Business Live

  1.  
    MARKET UPDATE 11:49:

    European markets have turned down. Investors in the UK have a heavy intake of corporate results to process. The biggest rise on the FTSE 100 is Shell, up 4% after results. Oil and gas firm BP Group - not to be confused with British Gas - is up 2%. In Europe, the focus is on sanctions on Russia and the damage these could do to company profits.

    • The FTSE 100 is down 15 at 6758.12
    • Germanys Dax is down 92 at 9502.02
    • France's Cac-40 is down 30 at 4281.74
     
  2.  
    HOUSE PRICES 11:35:
    Graph showing stamp duty payments over the last 10 years

    There is an interesting section in Nationwide's house price index on stamp duty receipts, which the building society say are very close to the previous record high of just under £11bn in the 2007-2008 financial year. In the twelve months to June stamp duty paid to the Treasury was £10bn. Drilling down a little further into that figure perhaps unsurprisingly London accounted for 40% of stamp duty paid,

     
  3.  
    ARGENTINA DEFAULT 11:18:

    Possibly a little bit of jumping of the gun from one of the ratings agencies now. Standard & Poor's (S&P) had already placed Argentina in "selective default" before the talks between the Argentine government and creditors officially ended, AFP reports. While it was unlikely that negotiations were likely to lead to agreement, could S&P not have waited until they did actually breakdown?

     
  4.  
    HEADLINES
    • Lloyds Banking Group profits fall
    • Eurozone inflation falls to 0.4%
    • Argentina defaults on debt
     
  5.  
    SHARE PRICE REAX 11:02:

    Here's a quick look at the biggest reactions to this morning's bumper batch of earnings reports. Shell is up between 3-4% depending on whether you take the A or B shares as your guide. Energy giant BG is up 2.6%. BT is up 1.7%. Balfour Beatty is down 6% on news it won't be hitching up with Carillion after all.

     
  6.  
    HOUSE PRICES 10:53:

    More on house prices. The annual rate of increase in property values fell a bit in July, according to Nationwide, down to 10.6% from 11.8% in June. That means the average property is now worth £188,903, compared with £188,949 in June.

     
  7.  
    THOMAS COOK 10:40:
    couple on beach

    Package holiday operator Thomas Cook has reported strong rise in quarterly profits and said it was confident its transformation plan was on track. Earnings - before interest and taxes - were £33m, compared with £1m last time.

     
  8.  
    EUROZONE INFLATION 10:34:
    The European Central Bank

    The latest eurozone inflation figures suggests the ECB's attempts to halt the currency bloc falling into deflation are still falling short. It's not really clear what the ECB will be able to do short of quantitative easing, which some have said it needs to do for a some time now. The bank has already cut interest rates about as low as they can go - the ECB benchmark interest rate was cut to 0.15% from 0.25%. in June, and banks now have to pay to deposit money in the ECB.

     
  9.  
    EUROZONE INFLATION

    Consumer price inflation in the eurozone FELL in July to 0.4%. That's its lowest level since October 2009 and still well within European Central Bank (ECB) president Mario Draghi's "danger zone".

     
  10.  
    HOUSE PRICES 10:08:
    Nationwide's table of average house prices

    Nationwide's press release says the rise in house prices was "the slowest pace since April 2013". In fact, if you take a closer look at the data set house prices FELL 0.1% month-on-month in April 2013. Obviously the monthly figures are fairly volatile but Nationwide is putting a slight gloss on them. In the previous twelve months before April 2013 house prices rose seven times and fell five times on a monthly basis.

     
  11.  
    CENTRICA PROFITS 09:44:
    A gas hob flame with a British Gas bill

    On the subject of results presentation. Centrica stands out as a beacon of clarity - yes, we really are giving them praise. They tell customers what to expect on bills, for example. This is much less common than you'd think from a retail business. It seems to stem from the appointment of Rick Haythornewhite as chairman earlier this year.

     
  12.  
    HOUSE PRICES 09:26:
    A row of houses in the Ardoyne area of Belfast

    It's a new day and there's a new house price index. This time it's from Nationwide Building Society which says average property values rose 0.1% this month compared with a 1% rise in June. House prices have now been rising for 15 months in a row, according to Nationwide's index.

     
  13.  
    CENTRICA PROFITS 09:04: BBC Radio 4

    Centrica's outgoing boss, Sam Laidlaw, has been telling Today the company's earnings were hit by two weather-related phenomena: "We had warmer weather in the UK which meant that actually our average customers' consumption of gas was down 24%. We actually also simultaneously had very cold weather in the US - the polar vortex - which resulted in generating companies charging us with a lot of additional ancillary costs." Nicely put.

     
  14.  
    ROLLS ROYCE PROFITS 08:54:
    A crew member works on the Rolls Royce engine

    Ah the regular battle between underlying and statutory pre-tax profits continues. See if you can get your heads around this. Rolls Royce has reported a 1,000% - yup 1,000% - rise in its statutory pre-tax profits to £717m in the six months to the end of June compared with a loss of £527m a year earlier. But the underlying figure shows a 20% fall in profits to £644m from £804m the year before.

     
  15.  
    MARKET UPDATE 08:39:

    European markets have opened mixed as investors attempt to digest the glut of corporate results out today. The biggest rise on the FTSE 100 in early trade is oil and gas firm BP Group - not to be confused with British Gas - up 2.67% to 1212.00p.

    • The FTSE 100 is higher by 0.34% to 6796.48
    • Germanys Dax is lower by 0.17% to 9577.32
    • France's Cac-40 is up 0.52% to 4334.64
     
  16.  
    HEADLINES
  17.  
    SONY RESULTS 08:26:
    A man plays a video game on Sony's PlayStation 4 console

    Its not just major UK results that are whooshing out at speed this morning. After Samsung's figures, here's Far East fellow Sony's. The company said it made $261m (£367m) in the past three months, thanks to strong sales of its PlayStation 4 console. The weak yen, which makes its products cheaper for outsiders, also helped. But not enough, it still expects to make a full-year loss.

     
  18.  
    COMMONWEALTH AUCTION 08:18:
    Giant Tunnocks

    The diet has been a most austere one this morning. Time for something pretty, Who could take against a Tunnock's tea cake? (Other cakes are available, says the BBC). The giant ones used to such arresting effect at the Commonwealth Games' opening ceremony are being auctioned today.

     
  19.  
    BAE SYSTEMS 08:09:
    A F-35B Lightning II jet landing vertically on aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.

    BAE Systems, which is Europe's biggest defence contractor, has reported a 7% fall in six month profits. The reason? Lower military spending by major customer the US. Half-year earnings were £802m. BAE warned earlier this year that earnings would by between 5-10% down on last year because of US defence spending cuts. Or defense spending, as it would say.

     
  20.  
    TSB PROFITS 08:05:

    TSB says costs rose by £62m in the last six month. That's in part because the bank no longer benefits from the economies of scale that Lloyds Bank gave it. That said, it won 9.2% of new or switched current accounts and is managing to maintain its market share. Lloyds still owns 65% of TSB but must get rid of its remaining shareholding under an agreement with the EU Commission by the end of 2015.

     
  21.  
    TSB PROFITS 07:55:

    Back to TSB for a moment. The figure that TSB would prefer investors paid more attention to (because they believe it is more reaslistic) is the near 17% fall in pre-tax profits to £78.6m in the past six months. Part of the problem with assessing TSB's accounts is that the bank only listed on the stock exchange in June, and has only existed as a separate entity from Lloyds Banking Group since 9 September last year.

     
  22.  
    CENTRICA PROFITS 07:50:

    Outgoing boss Sam Laidlaw says profit per household in 2014 expected to be around £40 (£51 before tax), that's 20% lower than in 2013. He also warns that profits won't be as good this year as last.

     
  23.  
    LLOYDS BANK PROFITS 07:46:

    OK.... so those legacy issues in full. Lloyds says these include set aside payments for Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) of £600m and £226m for Lloyds' involvement in the 2012 Libor interest rate rigging scandal and fiddling the repo rate. Lloyds also paid out £1.1bn to investors as part of a scheme that is seeing it buy back fixed income bonds - known as Enhanced Capital Notes - issued in 2009. That was then partly offset by a pensions credit of £710m, the bank says.

     
  24.  
    CENTRICA PROFITS 07:42:

    Prices now: The company says average actual British Gas customer bill is expected to be around £90 lower - 7% - per household in 2014 than last year.

     
  25.  
    LLOYDS BANK PROFITS 07:36:
    A general view of a sign for Lloyds Bank.

    So, good results for TSB on the face of it but not so good for parent Lloyds Banking Group? The bank has reported a big fall in statutory pre-tax profits to £863m in the six months to the end of June from £2.1bn for the same period a year earlier. That's a fall of nearly 60%. It says it took another hit of £1.1bn for what it initially describes as legacy issues - we'll investigate that and tell you what they are momentarily.

     
  26.  
    CENTRICA PROFITS 07:33:

    Energy regulator Ofegm said this week that UK suppliers' profits would grow from 4% to 8% this year, but Centrica said its profit margins would be lower for the year.

     
  27.  
    ASTRA ZENECA RESULTS 07:29:
    AstraZeneca

    The drugs giant recently beat off a $118bn takeover attempt by US giant rival Pfizer. One of the key planks of its defence was its drugs "pipeline" - the products it is creating and hopes will work safely. There's a full report on how that's going here.

     
  28.  
    TSB PROFITS 07:25:
    A woman walks into a branch of TSB bank

    A huge rise in profits at TSB today, although hard to really gauge properly given it was only recently spun off from parent Lloyds Banking Group. It says statutory pre-tax profits in the six month to the end of June rose 164% to £128.5m compared with the six months to the end of December 2013. The bank says the statutory figure when compared to the first six months of 2013 is "of limited benefit".

     
  29.  
    ASTRA ZENECA RESULTS 07:23:

    Drugs giant Astra Zeneca reports second quarter revenue rose 4% to $6.5bn.

     
  30.  
    BALFOUR BEATTY TALKS OFF 07:21:

    Construction company Balfour Beatty has called off talks with Carillion over a possible £3bn merger - just days after the possible deal was first mentioned. There may be interesting share price reaction to that when the markets open in under an hour.

     
  31.  
    SHELL PROFITS 07:19:

    Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell has reported profits doubled in its second quarter to $5.1bn (£3bn) from $2.4bn a year earlier.

     
  32.  
    BNP PARIBAS 07:19:
    BNP PARIBAS

    Giant French bank BNP Paribas reports a loss of 4.3bn euros (£3.4bn), after being whacked by an $8.95bn fine for breaking US sanctions, but BNP said the underlying result was strong and a sign clients had not been scared off. The loss was its first since the 2008 financial crisis.

     
  33.  
    CENTRICA PROFITS 07:18:

    Centrica's headline profit before tax for the six months to end of June is £890m, 40% down on last time.

     
  34.  
    BT PROFITS 07:14:

    Yet another major company reporting today. BT says revenue up 0.5% percent on an underlying basis to £4.4bn and profits flat at £1.4bn. It says there's record demand for superfast broadband and its sports TV service is growing nicely.

     
  35.  
    DIAGEO RESULTS 07:11:

    Drinks giant Diageo reports profits of £2.7bn, down from £3.06bn.

     
  36.  
    CENTRICA PROFITS 07:08:

    Operating profits for its British Gas residential energy supply fell 26%, Centrica says.

     
  37.  
    CENTRICA PROFITS 07:03:

    The energy giant's statutory pre-tax profit for the six months to end of June are £890m, down 40% on last time.

     
  38.  
    CENTRICA PROFITS 06:49: BBC Radio 4

    More from Trevor Sikorski, this time on Centrica, which releases its half-year results shortly. He tells Today: "We are expecting quite a dramatic fall in profits at Centrica and at the moment, their cost base isn't representing that fall in gas prices - essentially because energy companies bulk buy - and so the gas they bought on the wholesale prices won't have fed through yet, but will do later down the line."

     
  39.  
    ENERGY PROFITS 06:49: BBC Radio 4

    Energy company profits are all being driven by "a big reduction in wholesale power prices," Trevor Sikorski, from consultants Energy Aspects, tells Today "When you have a mild winter, you don't use a lot of gas and you don't draw down gas reserves," He adds consumers are as responsible for the state of the market as the energy firms themselves. They "generally don't switch very much" and "we're not sensitive to price changes when they happen, which isn't encouraging competition," he says.

     
  40.  
    SAMSUNG SLOWDOWN 06:41:
    Samsung products

    Smartphone maker Samsung reports its worst quarterly profit in two years as smartphone sales slow. Net profit for the three months to June fell 20% to 6.3 trillion won ($6.1bn).

     
  41.  
    ARGENTINA DEFAULT 06:33: BBC Radio 4

    "The repercussions of a default are coming through and we're going to see Argentina under pressure and inflation running higher and the country falling further into recession," Eimar Day from foreign exchange company Monex Europe tells the Today programme. Argentina is paying 7% on its bonds so why should bondholders be surprised when it defaults? she asks. "These are risky investments and creditors should have been prepared for that." Investors should also allow countries like Argentina to default and get back on their feet, she argues.

     
  42.  
    ENERGY PROFITS 06:24:
    Light bulbs

    Energy regulator Ofgem says the big six energy firms could double their profit margins from 4% to 8% over the coming year, FROM 4% TO 8%. That's the equivalent of making £100 per dual-fuel customer.

     
  43.  
    MANU SHARE SALE 06:16:
    Joel Glazer, left, Bryan Glazer, center, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers team owner and president Malcolm Glazer Malcolm Glazer (right) with his sons Joel and Bryan.

    Another development late last night was news the Glazers sold 5% of their stake in Manchester United - raising about £90m.

     
  44.  
    US ECONOMY 06:09: Radio 5 live

    Eimar Day from foreign exchange company Monex Europe is on Wake Up to Money, looking at Wednesday's news the US economy is growing at 4% a year. She's not convinced it's all that great: "Most of it was rebuilding inventory. There's an armchair labour market in the US. People who have just given up looking for work. The unemployment rate is 6.1%, which gives a glowing image of the US economy, but the economically inactive do not show up in this data."

     
  45.  
    ARGENTINA DEFAULT 06:01: Radio 5 live

    Argentina in default this morning after the collapse of last-minute talks in New York between its government and a group of bond-holders. But the rest of the world need not worry too much, James Lockhart Smith, Latin America analyst for Maplecroft, tells Wake Up to Money: "Negative news for the Argentina economy as a whole but it is unlikely to spread to other countries."

     
  46.  
    06:01: Matthew West Business Reporter

    Morning folks. You can get in touch with us as always via email bizlivepage@bbc.co.uk or you can tweet us @bbcbusiness.

     
  47.  
    06:00: Rebecca Marston Business reporter, BBC News

    Welcome to Thursday's Business Live. It's all about energy this morning as we wait for Centrica's results - as regulator Ofgem says the biggest six firms are set to double their profit margins over the next year.

     

Features

From BBC Capital

Programmes

  • A factory in JapanThe Travel Show Watch

    Factory infatuation – why Japan’s industrial compounds are drawing large crowds at night

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.